Scarlet O’Hara Cake

Cake, Sweets

For Thanksgiving this year, I volunteered my skills for the dessert portion of the meal, and made a cranberry cake, with Southern Comfort buttercream icing. It was based off her favorite drink, and my first mistake was assuming I could get away with making it a couple days early, and finishing it the day of.

 

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It was a simple recipe, though my first mistake was assuming I’d be able to split it into two, and treat it like a filled cake. The first attempt ended up baking a bit drier than I’d wanted, and fell apart quite easily. It tasted good, but needed another bake.

My wife helped me look over the original recipe, and suggested removing a cup of sugar, and adding some milk as well. That, and baking it in one pan had it come out perfectly.

The buttercream was easy enough – a standard recipe, with a few tablespoons of Southern Comfort in for taste.

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It ended up with a good balance of sweet and tart, to me, though in the future, I’d be interested about adding lime to the mix (as originally, I’d thought the namesake was simply cranberry and Southern Comfort).IMG_0487

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Chocolate and Orange Curd Birthday Cake

Cake, Chocolate

This year for my wife’s birthday, she asked for a simple, white cake, with chocolate icing, and orange curd filling.

The icing was applied a bit thinner than I was used to (though that was simply a difference in tastes between my wife and I), but overall, I liked how it turned out. I will admit that the idea was my wife’s, as she’d been wanting to try something like this for a while, and it turned out wonderfully.

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Cake

So, I know it’s corny, but the reason I made this was because  – I kid you not – it came to me in a dream. Which, as far as dreams go, hanging out with a buddy in a bakery, and just remembering there was a blackberry cake with lemon buttercream isn’t that bad.

 

Admittedly, all I did as fold blackberries into a white cake mix (most recipes were calling for coffee cakes, or simply putting the berries on top, or – in one case – instructing me to add blackberry gelatin mix to the batter), but it came out alright. In the future, I think I’ll cut them in half. They simply sank to the bottom of the pans, and only turned out so nicely because it was a two-layer cake, and thus gave the berries some spacing throughout each piece.

The icing was simply a buttercream with lemon juice added, but it gave a nice, tart burst to the cake. Unfortunately, the berries were a tad overshadowed by it, and the cake’s base flavor. I may add either flavoring to the icing, or to the cake, next time. Also, this is tentatively the last time I’m going to do this particular type of flower for a while. While it’s certainly nice, I tend to default to them for decoration (fall colors, this time), and one purpose of this blog is to push myself to do something I’m not already OK at.

And yes, the flowers are two different sizes, if only because I recently bought a larger icing nail, and wanted to see how it would do. The answer is, better when I relaxed, and let the petals flare open more, as with the top-center flower.

Still, I had to make this. The dream angle made it too good to pass up.

Cookie Dough Icing

Cake, Sweets

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This was just a chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday – with cookie dough frosting, rather than the usual, with semi-sweet chips all over. The big thing I learned from this, was to weigh my flour, rather than simply measure it. Before that, the icing had come out far too thick (which was used for the filling, in the end). In the future, I’ll stick to mini-chips as well. Though it was well-loved, my wife pointed out that the larger chips would be more likely to simply fall off the cake when cut, and not everyone would be OK with gulping handfuls of chocolate chips after a slice of cake.

Hummingbird Cake

Cake, Sweets

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This is a hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting I ended up making after trying a hummingbird cupcake at the Fairy Cakes Cupcakery here in town. It was topped with toasted coconut in the end, though I’d originally intended to garnish with macadamia nuts. Unfortunately, the package of Diamond brand nuts I bought were quite foul – they tasted spoiled, and had  a nasty, chemical/attic-dust taste to them, and smelled bad to boot. Thankfully I found that out before tossing them on the cake, and substituted coconut my wife had toasted.

Caramel Cake

Cake, Chocolate

This was a triple-layer marble cake I made for a friend’s birthday not too long ago. I dyed the white cake purple (his favorite color), and used caramel sauce for the filling. The icing was a caramel-flavored buttercream, made with caramel candy flavoring. I was pleased to see how vibrant the color was when the cake was cut – after it’d come out, the top had been a rather uniform brown, from the chocolate.

The most frustrating part of all this though, were the flowers. I’ve done them before, but at the time, even with the AC going full-blast, the apartment was rather toasty. What I ended up doing was making the flowers on tiny pieces of parchment paper, and setting them on a plate in the fridge.

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Swirled Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Cake

Recently, I discovered that one could purchase decorating dips individually at the JoAnne’s nearby. I was…unprepared for this discovery, to say the least – and by that, I mean I found myself dancing back and forth through the isles when I saw exactly how many very specific decorating tools they had. I’d been resigned to buying a set of tips that I didn’t really need that had the jumbo tips I actually wanted, and was thrilled beyond belief when I saw I didn’t have to.

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Even before this miraculous discovery, however, I’d decided I wanted to give another go at decorating cupcakes. Nothing fancy, but the last time they hadn’t come out as nicely as I’d hoped (mostly because A, the tips were too small, and B, the icing had bits of cookie in it, which made for uneven piping). I’d also noticed that much of the time my flowers and swirls would fall flat (though it being summertime in a small kitchen, I’d just been chalking it up to the temperature), and hoped that a different recipe would help.

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Actually, my wife and I’d just celebrated our two-year anniversary a few weeks ago, and as part of that, I bought some cupcakes from the Fairy Cakes Cupcakery, who’d provided the “cake” (about 200 cupcakes decorated with our wedding colors) for our wedding. I asked one of the bakers how their frosting always stayed so stiff and beautiful, and while they admitted it was partially because they kept the store rather cool, their frosting had more powdered sugar than normal.

With this as my guide, rather than my usual, I made a batch of icing to use with the newly-purchased jumbo tips. First off, the vanilla extract gave it an ivory/cream color, rather than pure white. It didn’t affect my plans at all, but I simply kept that in mind, should I ever purposefully want it. Also, I was worried that the added sugar (an extra cup from what I was used to, bringing it to 4 for the batch) would make it too sweet, and leave it with a distinctly “powdered sugar” taste.

Instead, I found the vanilla was strong enough to counter the extra sweetness. It was still quite sweet, but it didn’t taste any different from the icing you’d get if you had buttercream on a store-bought cupcake. After a few hours in the fridge, though, was when I could tell very clearly that it was going to be a much stiffer icing.

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The design was just a swirl, nothing fancy, with sprinkles on top. Still, the real test came when I left a plate of them out at room temperature when I had some friends over. By the end of the night, they barely showed any signs of wilting, and those I’d left in the fridge were – to my joy – as firm as the one’s I’d bought from Fairy Cakes.

Chocolate-Banana Cake

Cake

I gave in and bought a trio of mini springform pans recently. I’d had my eye on them at Target for a while, and finally gave in and decided to do something with them. I didn’t make the cupcakes, though I did use the banana buttercream recipe.

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The chocolate mini-cakes came out wonderfully (I didn’t take photos, but the top parts I cut off became a lovely whoopie-pie), though I finally came to the frustrating conclusion that no matter what, the next time I want to decorate a cake, I need to buy a lazy susan (or put something together that fulfills the same purpose. That, and I need to start doubling my icing recipe when I know I’m going to be decorating as well as coating.

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Overall, I was still quite pleased with how it turned out – a lovely little chocolate banana cake.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Icing

Cake

This is just a dark chocolate cake made from a mix. It’s good, but the main thing I wanted to do with this was make a belated-birthday cake for a friend. I didn’t want to just do a regular buttercream, so I made a raspberry buttercream. I made two cakes, and used red food dye to darken it, and have it be the center filling. The grey-ish icing is raspberry as well, just darkened with black dye. The design on the top was dyed string icing, and though it’s messy, I feel like it made the image more realistic.

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This cake is based off the character Alphonse Elric, from the anime Full Metal Alchemist. To make a long story short, his soul was bound to a giant suit of armor using the symbol on the cake, drawn in blood. The details are graphic, so I won’t go into them here, but given the situation in the show, I thought that rather than the nice, relatively clean symbol in the above link, it would’ve been more harried, and a bit messier.

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In the end, the icing was much sweeter than I would’ve liked. In the future, I’ll try cutting down on the amount of powdered sugar I put in, and see what fresh raspberries would do for the taste.

Oreo Cupcakes

Cake

I’ve been trying to find more and more uses to use the icing tips, ever since the cake I made a few weeks back, and I decided on this. Though cupcakes are quite easy, there were still some new things to learn. Mainly that when the recipe was instructing me to mix apple cider vinegar and milk, that buttermilk (which could simply be bought in a store) was what they were looking for, and also, how to make buttercream icing.

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I was wary of the icing, as I’d made something similar before, though it turned out far too sweet for my liking. However, this tasted exactly how I’d hoped, and firmed up nicely in the fridge.

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The aggravating learning experiences with decorating the cupcakes were that I should give strong thought into purchasing the larger tips, and also the realization that I didn’t take into account the cookie bits that were mixed into it. More than once I had to change tips, or use a toothpick to dig out some stubborn bit of cookie, which make any attempt at designs misshapen at best.

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Some of the nicer-looking ones were managed once I did away with the tips altogether. Though they didn’t come out quite as pretty as I wanted, I am very pleased with the overall product.